Here are 8 of history’s worst people who were named TIME’s person of the year
Donald Trump was named TIME’s person of the year, Wednesday morning, but many of the people TIME has named turn out to be some of the worst in history.
Here’s a quick list of people you should know Trump gets to share the “Man of the Year” title with the U.S. president-elect:
1. Joseph Stalin
In 1939 and 1942 TIME thought Stalin was worthy of the cover of the magazine. “Joseph Stalin has gone a long way toward deifying himself while alive,” TIME said in the 1939 award. “No flattery is too transparent, no compliment too broad for him. He became the fountain of all Socialist wisdom.” Stalin went on to annex parts of Poland and Romania, as well as Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Then, he launched an invasion of Finland. Prior to being named the person of the year in 1939, he conducted “The Great Purge,” which 1.2 million people were killed by the Soviet government. Stalin personally directed Nikolai Yezhov to torture anyone who was not making the confessions they sought.
2. Adolf Hitler
The Führer of the German people ultimately killed 6 million Jews and millions of other people from homosexuals to the mentally ill and disabled. TIME named him the Person of the Year in 1938. Guess, hindsight is 20/20.
3. Nikita Khrushchev
Khrushchev presided over the de-Stalinization of the former Soviet Union, but he was absolutely supportive of Stalin’s “purges” and personally approved the arrests of thousands. When Stalin sent Khrushchev to govern Ukraine the purges were started there too. Until his death, he bragged about being at the bloody defense of Stalingrad that resulted in 1.7–2 million wounded, killed or captured people. It’s generally regarded as one of the most deadly battles in history.
“In 1957’s twelve months, Nikita Khrushchev, peasant’s son and cornfield commissar scorned by the party’s veteran intellectuals, disposed all his serious rivals — at least for the time,” TIME wrote.
4. Gen William C Westmoreland
Analysts explain that one of the major reasons that the United States lost the War in Vietnam was due to Gen. Westmoreland’s lack of experience and inability to surround himself with people who could compensate for his lack of knowledge. Westmoreland was also known to ignore any opinions that conflicted with his own. He also cared very little about the civilian deaths, incentivizing body counts over strategic military victories.
5. Richard Nixon
TIME named Nixon their Person of the year in 1971 and 1972 but by 1974 he was resigning in disgrace. “He reached for a place in history by opening a dialogue with China,” TIME wrote. “He doggedly pursued his own slow timetable in withdrawing the nation’s combat troops from their longest and most humiliating war… all… with a flair for secrecy and surprise that has marked his leadership as both refreshingly flexible and disconcertingly unpredictable…”
He may have been named simply because he was sensible enough to withdraw American troops from Vietnam, but he was slow to do it and 15,000 more Americans died as a result. Ultimately, however, it became his secrecy and paranoia that proved to be his undoing. His plots and schemes conflicted with his underperformance in domestic policy and the result was a president who had a lot of personality but little substance. A characteristic Americans might find oddly familiar today.
Before there was the Russian hacking of the DNC there was the break-in and bugging on the DNC by Nixon’s staffers. It will always be unclear as to why Nixon went this route, but his paranoia could have been the culprit. Recordings revealed Nixon to be a “lying, venal, foul-mouthed, paranoid conspirator,” the Guardian reported.
The good news is that United States v. Nixon proved that no president could use the power of his office to hide from judicial inquiry. That might come in handy over the course of the next 4 years.
6. George W. Bush
The worst president before Donald Trump was elected, Bush ignored intelligence that warned of an attack on 9/11 and he faked intelligence that led to the Iraq invasion. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich ultimately lead to a 10-year revenue loss for the United States and resulted in a $3.5 trillion debt, including interest (PDF). Bush’s White House led Republicans to unprecedented power in Washington and ultimately the GOP’s deregulation of Wall Street resulted in the 2007 economic collapse that we’re only now finally recovering from. More evidence of Bush’s failures becomes evident as each year passes.
7. Ayatollah Khomeini
The Shi’ite cleric was an overwhelming opponent of the Shah of Iran and his so-called “Western-influenced” policies. He spent years in exile continuing his mini-war against the Shah and ultimately the angry Iranians ran him out. Khomeini returned to establish a theocratic government consistent with Islamic law and targeted the United States as its enemy. The move lead to the U.S. embassy being seized and 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days until a secret CIA operation brought them home.
Even years after his death, Iranians still hold him in high regard. “Rarely has so improbable a leader shaken the world,” said TIME when it named him as the Man of the Year in 1979.
8. Vladimir Putin
Putin was named as the Man of the Year in 2007 after former President George W. Bush looked into his soul.
Even if we ignore the fact that Putin tried to influence the outcome of the United States election, he’s got a tyrannical style of governing. Putin hates the LGBT community and banned any expression of homosexuality just in time for the Sochi Olympics. In fact, he hates homosexuals so much, he banned any homosexual person from being able to come into Russia and adopt any of its orphans. He also passed laws to effectively ban any non-governmental organizations doing humanitarian work in Russia.
If that isn’t bad enough, just last year, Putin invaded Crimea and still has troops in Ukraine. Russia is the primary gas export to Ukraine and much of Europe, so when he cut them off, it caused a lot of problems. While he eventually relented, he keeps doing it over and over again as if to prove that he can.
He has jailed journalists, political opponents and activists like Pussy Riot. “I was not sorry that they ended up behind bars,” Putin once explained. “I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behavior, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women.”
While the US is fighting a war against ISIS in Syria, Russia decided he would sell weapons to notorious bad man, Bashar Al-Assad, the country’s president. It’s almost certain that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, who he claimed were against him.
He was a Man of the Year runner-up in 2014, but luckily for him, Russian TIME names him the “Man of the Year” every year.
In the end, this isn’t exactly a positive development for those named by TIME nor is it the great honor that Trump said it was.